Every Body celebrates inclusivity and the representation of human beings in every shape and form.
You might argue that there are two kinds of people: the kind that went to summer camp and the kind that didn’t. The experience leaves such a mark on people’s childhood memories that an entire industry has sprung up around the idea of recreating (or creating, for those who missed out as kids) that feeling of going off to camp — except this time, as adults.
Blogger Annette Richmond launched her Fat Girls Traveling social media project to carve out a space for travelers in the body positive community. Now she’s taking on summer camp and building a totally body positive camping experience she’s calling Fat Camp. We talked with Annette about her plans to bring this summer awesomeness to the Fat Girls Traveling community and how she hopes to create the best summer camp memories for every last one of her campers.
Brit + Co: You’re calling this summer getaway a ‘fat camp’ — but it’s nothing like the diet camps that people might associate with that label. How is this going to be different?
Annette Richmond: This definitely won’t be your run-of-the-mill fat camp, as diet talk is completely off the table. There won’t be any calorie-counting or wasting time worrying about weight. Instead, we’ll be eating delicious meals, enjoying daily Happy Hour, and staying cool at pool parties! There will also be classic camp activities like arts & crafts, kickball, and paddle boarding on the lake. Retreat-style activities include morning yoga, panel discussions, and Q&A sessions. Each night will end with a dance party and s’mores.
Campers will have the opportunity to participate in all or some of these activities. There’ll be no pressure for anyone to do anything they are not comfortable with. [Just] coming to camp will be a major step out the comfort zone for many campers.
B+C: There’s been a recent trend where summer camps of all kinds have been springing up for adults. What inspired you to organize this specific kind and why do you think it’s needed?
AR: I’ve been working at a summer camp for kids as the office manager for the last three years. I was also a kid that went to summer camp and LOVED it, so I know what types of bonds and memories that can be created through this experience. When I would mention to friends or Fat Girls Traveling members that I was working at a summer camp the response would be so positive. People would tell me how lucky I was to be able to unplug a bit and enjoy nature. And honestly, working at camp is one of my favorite summer activities because I get to feel like a big kid! So when I brought the idea to the group and created a poll asking how many members would be interested in attending summer camp, the response was very positive. That gave me the green light to move forward.
B+C: There might be some people, like you, who want to go to these retreats as an adult to relive the amazing memories of being a kid at summer camp. But for people who might have been sent to a traditional calorie-counting diet camp, there might not be those same positive associations.
AR: There is a lot of trauma associated with summer camp, especially Fat Camp. For some, it was a time that was spent restricting and obsessing over food. Creating behaviors as children that are really difficult to unlearn as adults. My hope is that Fat Camp can help replace those not-so-good memories with uplifting and empowering ones.
B+C: We chatted about this a bit before when we talked about your amazing Fat Girls Traveling Instagram and Facebook groups, but I think it’s important to revisit for anyone who misses that: Why ‘fat’ instead of ‘curvy’ or ‘full-figured’ — and specifically why ‘Fat Camp’ for this event?
AR: I named the group Fat Girls Traveling to help take the shame and stigma out of the word Fat. I understand that for some there’s a shock factor. But in the Fat Positive Community, we’re reclaiming the word. Words only have as much power as you give them. Using the word “fat” in a positive way is political because it helps challenge societal norms that “fat” equals ugly, unhealthy, or unlovable.
The word “fat” is just a descriptor, just as the words “tall,” “tan,” or “child” describe someone’s outward appearance. So does the word “fat.” But for many of us, it comes with emotional baggage. It’s triggering.
I know that words like curvy, thick, or plus size are more acceptable and palatable. But to me, those words are just a subtle way of saying fat. I am fat, and not subtly fat. However, my fat doesn’t define me, it doesn’t limit me and my goal is to encourage other women to feel the same way. The Fat Girls Traveling group has done that and Fat Camp is the natural next step.
B+C: Can you tell us about some of the Very Important Campers/VICs that are showing up for Fat Camp this summer and what they’ll be bringing to the table?
AR: I’m happy to say that all of the VIC are members of Fat Girls Traveling! I really didn’t have to look far to find truly inspiring women who I know have so much knowledge and wisdom to share.
Jennifer McKnight of Travel With Curves and Body Image Counselor + Coach Jamie Salacup Earnhardt, LPC are my go-to girls. They have been super supportive and helped me with Fat Camp from the beginning. It’s important to me that Fat Camp is inclusive, that all campers feel comfortable and supported. Having a team of women I trust helps me create something for all types of campers. I know that everyone is not as comfortable as me in a bikini for example. So I ask Jennifer and Jamie for feedback to get different perspectives on ideas and the itinerary for camp. Not only that, they are both well-traveled women with a lot of experience in body positivity.
Fat Camp is a fat-positive environment where campers will have the opportunity to meet and interact with some influential social media mavens, travel bloggers, and body-positive advocates. A safe space where we’ll all be bonding over self-love and s’mores.
B+C: Summer is a time where we’re typically shedding layers of clothing and baring a lot more skin. Regardless of size and shape, so many people struggle with feeling confident and secure in, for example, a bathing suit. That discomfort can really stand in the way of having fun and enjoying your damn life. Do you have any advice for getting past it?
AR: My number-one tip for this is to surround yourself with diverse body types and inspo on your social media channels. We’re so often comparing ourselves, comparing our bodies. To a certain extent, it’s natural. But it’s proven that people become depressed by seeing unattainable body types and travel photos on Instagram. Make sure your feed is not just feeding your insecurities but lifting you up. Follow profiles that encourage diversity in race, size, and ability/disability.
Also, know that the person that you think has the perfect body is dealing with their own insecurities. No one is immune to it. Everyone has a secret internal battle they are fighting, so be kind. But most importantly, be kind to yourself. Because once you learn to love yourself unconditionally, it’s much easier to live without judging others — especially based on superficial things like weight.
What are your plans for taking on summer with a body-positive vibe? Tell us about it on Twitter.
(Images via Ty McKnight)